I have five kids -- three girls ages six, four and three, and identical twin sons, eighteen months old. For about seven months, my kids were "five under five." Most people thought my husband and I were nuts having so many children so close together, but we have a secret: Attachment Parenting.
My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, but one thing we share is an intense dislike for how we were raised. We both felt distanced from our parents, lonely, disrespected, worthless; we both felt like possessions rather than people. Neither of us wanted to raise a child the way we were raised, but we didn't know there was anything other than the traditional way, so for a long time we just thought we wouldn't have any children.
Our introduction to A/P was while watching Phil Donahue's show back in the early 90s, when Martha Sears nursed her 2-year-old in a sling while her husband, Dr. William Sears, touted the benefits of the family bed. We were interested. We saw the Sears' on Donahue again awhile later, talking about positive discipline, and we bought The Baby Book to learn more about what they had to say. We were hooked. We agreed that, when and if, we ever had a child, A/P would be the way.
We did, finally, take the parenthood plunge. Our first daughter, Emma Rose, was born on November 6, 1996. She was born in our bed, and stayed there with us for four years. She nursed like a champ, and it was so easy to pack up and go with her in the sling that we wondered how formula companies stayed in business. We held her as long as she wanted, we picked her up when she cried, we listened to her needs long before she could express them verbally, and we considered her in every decision we made.
Some people say that A/P is "following their instincts" but, quite honestly, attachment parenting didn't come easily to us. At first it was very hard to go against the ways we were brought up. It was very hard, when Emma was crying and resisting sleep, to not walk away and ignore her like our parents recommended. It was hard to keep breastfeeding when my nipples were cracked and raw. It was hard to continue co-sleeping when everyone told us we'd roll over on our baby and smother her. For us, A/P was about un-learning our role models, re-programming our instincts, and becoming the parents to our child that we wished we'd had.
When people ask how we manage with five children, I sing the praises of A/P. But in reality, it's BECAUSE of A/P that we even had five children. Our experiences in attachment parenting with Emma were so wonderful, and the joy she brought to our lives was so great. She was an intelligent, well-adjusted child, and we finally felt we were capable of raising childREN, not just A CHILD. We thought two more children would be our ideal family and, considering that we were 36 years old, we figured we'd better have them sooner rather than later. Daughters Alison and Ingrid soon joined our family, and A/P became second nature for us.
My husband still really wanted a son, so we decided to try just one more time, and we got both Jack and Zachary! Many people would have freaked at the idea of twins at the age of forty, but not me. (OK, maybe a little bit, at first.) Slinging kept them secure and content, breastfeeding nourished them easily and inexpensively, and co-sleeping helped keep us all well-rested and reduced the risk of SIDS. But most importantly, we felt that our immediate bonding with them, and our responding to their cues kept the trauma of life outside the womb to a minimum, thus reserving their energy for growing strong and healthy.
We've saved hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, by breastfeeding rather than formula feeding. Our older children are secure and confident, and sibling rivalry is pretty much unheard of in our home. We look at misbehavior as teachable moments rather than punishable offenses. Our kids know that they are loved and valued as humans, and that their feelings and opinions count. We listen to what they say, and in turn, they listen to what we say. (We hope this fact, in particular, sticks around when they're teenagers!) And while many parents find their marriages in trouble after the kids arrive, our marriage is stronger than ever, because we share a commitment to raising the best possible human beings we can, and bringing out the best in them with A/P brings out the best in us.
I can't recommend having "five under five" to anyone else, but if it's in your future, A/P is the way to make it work!